The heyday of fiberglass keelboat production produced a collection of boats that had accommodations for cruising and suitable for racing. However, time marches on, and newer boats better suited for the race course slowly overshadowed the dual purpose designs.
What’s critical for handicap racing, regardless of the rule, is in how boats of similar type and speed are gathered. But as the types of boats got more diverse, and designs became more efficient upwind and/or downwind, the 1970s generation struggled to compete against the new breeds.
The good news is that these boats still exist, so when the topic turns toward increasing participation, one need only look to see what it takes to reactivate this fleet. That’s what the largest regatta of its kind in the world has done.
Cowes Week, having first taken place in 1826, expects between 800 and 1,000 yachts in up to 40 classes when it hosts its iconic event this summer in England. And one of those classes will be the introduction of a new group called the GRP Classic Class.
The decision to introduce the new class came about following a conversation Regatta Director Laurence Mead had with famous Cowes yacht designer John Corby on the rapid evolution of yacht design after 1974.
It was agreed that there are a lot of boats which were superseded by the flat bottom designs of Ron Holland, Doug Peterson et al at that time, and that those boats might enjoy a chance to race in the lively spectacle that is Cowes Week.
The new GRP Classic Class will be run for unmodified fiberglass production boats which have a design date and first build of before December 31, 1974. Some of the boats in the region that would ideally fit into this class are from Swan, Sparkman & Stephens, Van der Stadt, Peter Norlin, Bowman, Nicholson, Dick Carter, Scampi, etc.
“This is not a class for fully tricked-up older boats and, whilst there is no restriction on sails, the objective is to offer high quality racing to like-minded owners, so a full set of the latest carbon sails is not in the plan,” notes Mead. “We are looking forward to a generation of boats which may no longer have a natural home for racing joining Cowes Week in 2019.”
More information at www.lendycowesweek.co.uk